MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey reacted to recommendations released Tuesday morning that suggest she allow some businesses to immediately reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recommendations were made in a report by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and the Alabama Small Business Commission’s Emergency Task Force. The task force is a subcommittee of business leaders and members of the Alabama Legislature.
“I appreciate the work that Lt. Governor Ainsworth and our Small Business Commission did in coming up with these recommendations,” Ivey said, adding that she would send them to the executive committee of her Coronavirus Task Force to “start plugging them in, where appropriate.”
The committee report includes recommendations that could restart the state’s economy after many non-essential businesses were required to close under the ongoing, statewide stay at home order Ivey signed on April 3.
The order, which is set to expire May 1, prohibits all non-work related gatherings of 10 people or more and requires all nonessential businesses to remain closed. Ivey has said she and State Health Officer Scott Harris will review the stay at home order on or before April 28.
“On a call with the president and vice president yesterday, President Trump made it clear that this will be a gradual process, even as he said that our nation’s governors will be responsible for leading these efforts and that his Administration will continue to stand by us as we do this," Ivey stated.
The committee’s recommendation includes reopening close contact services, restaurants, and retail businesses immediately under strict guidelines.
“It’s currently considered safe to go to a box store and buy potentially furniture. It’s currently considered safe to go to a box store and buy clothing. It’s currently considered safe to go to a box store and even buy jewelry. And our message is simple,” Ainsworth said. “The message about social distancing is spreading people out, and the committee says that it’s not fair for small businesses to be open and be penalized. And we actually believe smaller stores mean smaller risk."
Other businesses and services would start reopening in phases in May under the recommendations. Medical and health services, gaming facilities, exercise facilities, museums and beaches would be allowed to reopen on May 1, followed by youth athletic activities on May 11.
The report includes specific recommendations by industry, but there are some broad guidelines. All of the businesses would be required to monitor the health of employees and send home any employee who has symptoms of COVID-19, limit the number of people allowed inside the business at one time, increase cleaning measures and enforce social distancing.
Employees in close contact services would be required to wear face masks and gloves. Those services could only be provided by appointment.
But the process of restarting the economy won’t be immediate, Ivey signaled.
“Consistent with what we’ve been saying all along, the president made it clear that the return to “normal” won’t be a quick or simple process. We will need to see declining cases, and stronger testing, over at least 14-days to make certain we don’t see a return in the spike up of the infection."
And even as the governor contemplates the recommendations from Ainsworth’s committee, she’s still awaiting responses from others she’s asked for input.
“I also look forward receiving reports from our seven Members of Congress by the middle of next week. We’re also getting feedback from the mayors of our 10 largest cities, as well as a lot of other good suggestions , and our Executive Committee is already looking into many different ideas and plans," Ivey added. “No good idea will be tossed aside.”
Among those mayors is Montgomery’s Steven Reed. Reed says he knows people are eager to get back to work and to a since of normalcy but the capital city is far from being in the clear. He says people should not get a false sense of security from some of the low number of COVID-19 cases across the state. Reed says the city still needs far more testing, more results, and a consistent drop in the number of cases before businesses can begin to re-open. Reed says re-opening the city is a slow process and they do not want to unintentionally bring on a second wave of the virus by rushing into things.
On Thursday, the White House Coronavirus Task Force unveiled new recommendations to states for reopening the country.
Ivey participated in a phone meeting with the Trump Administration Thursday, according to her office.
“The governor is grateful to the president for his Administration’s strong leadership and continued guidance during this unprecedented time. She also appreciates the president supporting Alabama making decisions that are in the best interest of Alabamians, specifically as it relates to their personal and economic health. She will continue making these decisions, while carefully weighing both aspects of this situation,” her office stated. “As the president mentioned, this will be data driven, rather than date driven. With his guidance, as well as that from her Coronavirus Executive Committee and our state’s congressional leaders, Governor Ivey looks forward to getting Alabama back to work and back to normal. She commends Alabamians for their cooperation and asks for their continued patience. Their willingness in the next two weeks is key to flattening the curve and getting our businesses rolling again.”